Poinsettias are one of the most symbolic plants of the holiday season.
So popular, they account for about one-quarter of all flowering potted plant sales.
With more than 100 varieties, they come in a wide range of colors, red being the most popular. California is the largest producer of poinsettias, which are named for Joel Robert Poinsett, an amateur botanist from South Carolina and the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, who introduced them in 1825.
Native to Mexico, poinsettias bloom in December in response to the shorter days. And contrary to most flowering plants, we love them for their colorful modified leaves called bracts and not for the little yellow flowers at their center. In nature, the bracts attract pollinators to the plant’s very unassuming small flowers.
KEEPING THEM FRESH
Here are a few tips for keeping your poinsettia looking beautiful throughout the holiday season and beyond:
- Before purchasing, look at the true flowers at the center of the colorful bracts. Plants giving the longest show of color will have tight yellow, white or green buds. If you see yellow pollen, the bracts won’t last long.
- Place the plants near a window but away from direct sunlight. A foot away or so is just fine. Make sure they get 6-8 hours of indirect sunlight per day.
- Poinsettias thrive in temperatures between 60-70 degrees. Plants can suffer damage when below 50 degrees.
- Keep soil evenly moist but do not overwater. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch or the pot feels lightweight when picked up. Remove the outer decorative foil pot before watering. Set your poinsettia in a sink and water thoroughly and allow the plant to drain completely. Never allow your poinsettia to sit in excess water.
- While they don’t like to be overwatered, poinsettias do prefer a humid environment. You can mist the foliage providing them with a little humidity to make their color last longer.Generally, we consider poinsettias to be disposable plants, keeping them just during the holidays. But you can keep you plant growing and thriving well beyond the holidays.
Carol Howerton is a member of Maricopa Master Gardeners.
This story was first published in the November edition of InMaricopa magazine.